Eating salad for dinner. Are we good there? How do you feel about main dish salads? I used to get a little scared at the thought of serving salad for dinner’s main course. Just because I can eat salad every day for the rest of forever doesn’t mean Brian and the kids were crazy about it. I was never sure it would fill them up and texturally, I had a few kids who gagged on lettuce for the longest time (weren’t we so happy when that phase was over).
Since I was determined to make salad-for-dinner work for us and because there are so many fabulous main dish salads worth loving, I’ve adopted a few tips and tricks over the years to make even my kids gobble up salad like it’s their last meal.
Here’s how I make eating salad work for our whole family:
-Load the salad with a lot of other things besides lettuce. Some of our favorite salads are chopped-style, heartily filled with beans, cubed cheese, a protein or meat of some kind, and many other things. Not only does this give a lot of diversity to ingredients but my kids go crazy over all the colors.
-Offer even more toppings. Letting the kids add crushed tortilla chips, toasted sunflower seeds, extra cheese, bacon bits or anything else that fits in with the flavors of the salad allows them to customize their portion just the way they want. My kids eat so much better when they have some part in making dinner, even if it’s just throwing craisins on top of their salad.
-Serve the salad with bread. Nearly every time salad’s on the menu for dinner, I also make sure to have breadsticks or some kind of roll or grilled flatbread or biscuits or…you get the picture. It helps fill all the hollow legs sitting at my dining table as well as offer negotiating points: three more bites of salad and you get another breadstick type of thing.
This Mexican chopped salad full of tender chicken, crisp lettuce and veggies, olives and cheese and so much more is fantastic. The super easy homemade honey vinaigrette takes only minutes to shake together and then is poured over everything but the lettuce, cheese and avocados and left to marinate for a few hours. If everything else is chopped up and ready, throwing the salad together at dinnertime will take no time at all. The flavors are bright and fresh and slightly smoky and this salad has quickly cemented itself into our main dish faves.
In case you also love a good main dish salad, here are a few of our other favorites:
Mexican Chopped Chicken Salad
- 1/2 cup apple cider or red wine vinegar
- 6 tablespoons honey
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 4 cups cooked, chopped chicken (from a rotisserie chicken, grilled chicken or this simple skillet method)
- 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels, thawed if frozen
- 1 cup chopped cherry or roma tomatoes
- 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained well
- 3 green onions, white and green parts chopped
- 15-ounce can olives, drained and cut in half
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 3 small romaine hearts, chopped (about 6-8 cups)
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- 2 avocados, diced
- 1 cup cubed sharp cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese (or a combination)
- Sour cream, blue corn tortilla chips and salsa for serving
- Whisk together all the dressing ingredients (or shake like crazy in a covered mason jar) until combined.
- In a large bowl, toss the chicken, corn, tomatoes, beans, green onions, olives and red pepper with about 1/2 to 2/3 of the dressing. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 8 hours.
- When ready to serve, toss the chicken mixture with the lettuce, cilantro, avocados, cheese and the remaining dressing (to taste – you may not want to add it all).
- Serve immediately with sour cream, crushed tortilla chips and salsa.
I didn’t add this in the ingredients list but one time I made this and I added jicama to the lineup of crunchy vegetables and oh my, it was deliciousness.
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Recipe Source: adapted slightly from a recipe a reader, Nicole T., sent me (thanks, Nicole!)